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The Battle We Didn't Choose: My Wife's Fight with Breast Cancer

Angelo Merendino | United States

Jennifer, 4/18/2011

 

In September of 2007, I married the girl of my dreams. Five months later, Jennifer was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Numb and in a state of disbelief, we entered the world of cancer.
Some two years after Jen’s initial diagnosis, news came that the breast cancer had metastasized to her liver and hip; ultimately it spread to Jen’s brain. Just over a year and a half after this second diagnosis, Jennifer passed.
Most people are not aware of the challenges that we faced every day. Little do they know that Jen was in chronic pain from the side effects of nearly 4 years of treatment. Fear, anxiety and worries were constant; hospital stays of 10-plus days were not uncommon.
My photographs show this daily life. They humanize the face of cancer, on the face of my wife. Cancer is in the news daily, and maybe, through these photographs, the next time a cancer patient is asked how he or she is doing, along with listening, the answer will be met with more knowledge, kinder empathy, deeper understanding and heartfelt concern.

 

 

 

Moved by the beauty and frailty of each passing second, my camera is always by my side and I am equally inspired by Capa, Frank and Chim as by Kerouac and any human who is aware of the simple magnificence of life.

I studied photography at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 2000’s, focusing on documentary photography and building a foundation based on simplicity and a desire to compose images that promote awareness, thought and communication.

When my wife of 5 months was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, I found that the most effective way to communicate and share our daily challenges was with my camera. Words can often fall short, but a photo of Jen receiving chemotherapy speaks volumes. Images of Jen giving herself her daily shots to boost her immune system or photographs of strangers staring at Jen, now only 39 years old, bald and walking with a walker, show just one of the many challenges that she faces every day.

 The intimacy of our relationship allows me access to the most personal of situations, both physically and emotionally. I am with my wife at every chemotherapy treatment, hospital stay and doctor’s appointment, as well as every moment of happiness, sadness, frustration or confusion. My belief in the need for people to understand the challenges and needs of a person fighting cancer comes directly from my day-to-day life, watching my best friend and soul mate courageously fight this horrible disease.

 

Living in Manhattan, I am a member of Corbis.

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